I’m following up on my last post about the Haiku Cubes and the Japanese American Experience exhibit with an interview with Tiko Mason. The concept and the content of the exhibit was her idea I thought I’d let her explain it to you.
Pamela: Can you share with our readers where the idea for the library exhibit came from?
Tiko: This past summer I participated in the St. Mary’s Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SMURF) program. I had intended to research the Japanese-American experience from the arrival of the issei (first generation Japanese to come to America) to the yonsei (my generation) using my family’s personal experience as text. Prior to the project I knew my great-grandfather Seizaburo’s name, that he had lived in Seattle, and that something bad had happened to him during the war. I had no idea that on my first visit to the National Archives and Records Administration I would happen upon a gigantic file, replete with over a hundred documents, handwritten letters, memorandums from the Department of Justice and the FBI, all topped with Seizaburo’s mug shot and fingerprints. My project morphed into a creative engagement with this file, supported by other historical research, that grappled with my personal questions of identity in relation to this not-so-distant family member from the not-so-distant past. The documents in this exhibit come from that research.
Pamela: Had you read When the Emperor was Divine before you started your project?
Tiko: I did read When the Emperor was Divine prior to beginning the project (at the suggestion of my excellent adviser Professor Beth Charlebois). I also re-read it 3 or 4 times during the course of the summer (while doing my research). Julie Otsuka’s language and description of these events sparked my own creativity. I came to see so much of my great-grandfather Seizaburo in the father from the story, and there are points where the narrative eerily describes my own family’s experience.